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Court win: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones

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Zeta wins Hello! costs
By Patrick McGowan, Evening Standard
23 January 2004

Celebrity magazine Hello! today faces a bill of millions of pounds in legal fees after its court battle with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas over the unauthorised publication of their wedding pictures.

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Gallery: the Hello! court battle
The case cost between £2million and £4million. The High Court today ruled that Hello! should pay most of the bill, its share being at least £1.8 million. It must also pay £120,000 in interest.

The acrimony shown by the two sides at the High Court in November continued today in a furious dispute over the mathematics, with lawyers for Hello! insisting that the Hollywood couple and OK! magazine would be out of pocket.

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Certainly, by comparison with the seven-figure sums being talked about today, the £14,600 damages awarded to Zeta-Jones and Douglas for the "ruined memories" of their wedding day seemed very small beer indeed.

In today's ruling Mr Justice Lindsay said the conduct of Hello! had "fallen well short of what is to be expected and in some respects was downright deceitful or misleading". Afterwards Chris Hutchings,

solicitor for Hello! said: "Whatever figure you take for the claimants' costs, they will be out of pocket, the damages will be eaten up and more than wiped out. On their own figures they are going to be out of pocket by £ 1 million."

Hello! has to pay its own costs of £1 million and, according to the ruling today, 85 per cent of the costs of Zeta-Jones and Douglas and OK!. However, their costs have yet to be accurately assessed and Mr Hutchings said today the £4 million figure quoted seemed " remarkable".

OK! was awarded more than £1 million in damages at the end of last year's High Court action. During the hearing Zeta-Jones, 34, famously said: "£1 million is not that much to us."

She may yet live to regret that remark as Hello! has been granted leave to appeal against last year's court decision and, if successful, today's figures will be academic.

A spokesman for OK! and the Douglases said they were "confident that the judge's findings in their favour will be upheld by the Court of Appeal". All that can be said with certainty is that the additional legal bill for both sides will add at least another £1 million to the equation.

This all began with Hello! using unauthorised pictures snapped at the couple's wedding in New York in 2000. The grainy pictures had been taken by Rupert Thorpe, son of former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe.

The photograph which caused the most upset was one of the bride eating wedding cake. The Welsh actress told the court: "I felt violated and that something precious had been stolen from me. Our distress and anger at what Hello! did to us continues to this day." Douglas, 59, described the affair as "a complete nightmare" and "truly gut-wrenching".

Despite winning their case last year Douglas and Zeta-Jones are also going to the Court of Appeal hoping for a ruling that their personal privacy was infringed by the unauthorised photographs as well as their commercial confidence.

Before the wedding there had been a bidding war between Hello! and OK! for exclusive rights for the photographs which OK! won with an offer believed to be about £1.3 million.

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